The electronic signature

Sign of the times and the advance of new technologies, the signing of documents is changing and offers companies new tools for them advantageous for many reasons. Thus, the arrival of the electronic signature lets fear the gradual disappearance of the use of paper in commercial transactions ..


How it works ?

The electronic signature aims to ensure the integrity of the signed document and the identity of the signatory, using a cryptographic method. The law of 13 March 2000 has defined it as the use of a reliable identification process guaranteeing its link with that to which it is attached. Just like a paper signature, it has the sole objective to demonstrate to third parties that the document was approved by an identified person.

The electronic signature differs from the written signature in that it is not visual but corresponds to a number or a sequence of characters. Indeed, the process of signing applies to a file and generates a binary commonly called electronic or cryptographic signature. This will not only be related to this file, but also related to the person who did the act of signing.

An electronic signature is on a document produced through an electronic certificate. This electronic certificate is a kind of digital identity card certifying with certainty the identity of a person. He used to sign digital documents with the assurance that the identity of the signatory is recognized without any ambiguity or dispute. Indeed, this certificate contains personal information such as full names.

The benefits of the electronic signature

The electronic signature will be given to all types of documents of a company whether a convention, framework agreement, contract, order, invoices, pay slips, expense report and on all kinds of files (Word, PDF, XML , JPEG), although the PDF file is the most common file and the one that offers the most stability.

Among the benefits offered by the electronic signature, it offers the opportunity to sign a document without printing it, and will thus enable savings of paper and ink. In addition, it will also enable to keep a document in a digital format and so remove the archiving on paper. This will also reduce travel and costs related to it because the documents are signed without the parties need to meet. The electronic signature finally gives the possibility to save stamp and postage because the document which is signed electronically will be send an email or digital flow, which again saves time.

In terms of security, electronic signature allows for a digital document, to guarantee the identity of the signatory, non-repudiation by the signatory of the document signed and the integrity of the signed document, that is to say the document has not been modified.

The legal value of the electronic signature

This raises the question of the legal value of such a signature.

The legislature first set the signature necessary for the perfection of legal acts in general in Article 1316-4 of the Code civil as one that identifies the one who affixes. This broad definition encompasses both handwritten signatures and electronic signatures.

The article then states that when the signature is electronic it consists of a use of a reliable identification process guaranteeing its link with the act to which it is attached.

The electronic signature fulfills therefore the functions of the handwritten signature for all that the signature method implemented is reliable. The reliability of the identification process must be proven, which in practice can pose a number of practical difficulties and necessitate the use of expertise.

Before the establishment of such a solution, it will be important to make a good legal analysis and select the provider that best fits their needs, especially depending on the criticality of the document, the desired level of safety and the quality of its support.



Mehdi Taieb,

Etudiant en master 2 Droit de l’économie numérique à l’Université de Strasbourg


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